Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Thing About Iowa

So, some professor at the University of Iowa wrote an article for The Atlantic about Iowa. Well, I think it was supposed to be about Iowa's unsuitability at holding the first-in-the-nation caucus status, but it was hard to tell that his point wasn't just bashing Iowa until the very end of the article. As one of my dear parishioners wrote on his Facebook wall, "'Exaggerated Stereotypes, I'd like to introduce you to Assorted Facts. I think you'll get along well in this article,' said Dr. Bloom. 'Perhaps I will also include Inflammatory Remarks.'" What valid points he may have made (and there are a few valid points to be made) were lost in the sea of astonishingly inaccurate generalities and too-highly-weighted random facts and experiences.

Also, he really needed an editor. I can't get over how, on the one hand, we have all these cracked-out meth-heads and college students getting arrested for public intoxication, and on the the other hand, live in communities where the worst crime is tee-peeing a neighbors house. Which is it? Because, brother, it can't be both.

And he writes as if Iowa provincialism is some sort of unique trait to this heartland state. I lived in New York City for six years and I knew people who lived in fear of leaving the five boroughs for any reason (to be fair, some of them lived in fear of leaving just FOUR of the bureaus, if I may say so with apologies to my friends who live on Staten Island). True, NYC has more to commend it than does rural Iowa in terms of "stuff to do," but provincialism is provincialism, and it is everywhere in these United States. At least, it's everywhere I've been to (30+ states and counting).

If I may make one more point: as a Christian, I can almost promise you that when a college student tells you she's going to have to face a "come-to-Jesus talk" from her parents after being arrested for public intoxication, it probably doesn't mean her parents are going to tell her she needs to recommit herself to a life worthy of her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It probably means they are going to remind her that they don't pay good money to send their student to the University of Iowa so she can get drunk and pass out in public. And possibly do so while yelling at her. The term "come-to-Jesus talk" is a colloquial expression and you should probably know that.

Actually, he probably DOES know that and was just trying to be inflammatory. Which is all the more stupid, I think, because it utterly weakened his case. I'm surprised the dude is actually a journalism professor. He should know better. He should WRITE better.

He's been threatened and supposedly is a little afraid for his life now. I have mock a little bit - surely he can't think these rural farmers too afraid to use the interstate or even leave their little counties are REALLY out to get him, can he? All kidding aside, this article isn't worthy of threats to his life. I think it represents a threat to his CAREER as a journalist, but he shouldn't be facing death threats or anything like that for this article. So knock it off, angry Iowans.

Dr. Bloom has done a disservice to his career and to the state that he has lived in for 20 years. (See a lovely response here.) But even still, permit me to point out that if his house is burned down or his family faces an unexpected medical crisis, those same people he has mocked and belittled by his caricatures in this article will show up with casseroles, paper plates, napkins, love and money to help him out. Even if they think he's an ass. He knows that.

Why shouldn't THOSE people be the ones to get first crack at choosing the next president?

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The War on Christmas/Christianity

So, a local member of the clergy is running for city council. I don't criticize, because I am myself an elected official, having been elected to the school board for some years now. However, I had to laugh out loud when I read the reasons WHY he said he was running for council. They included a comment about how, in the founding days of this country, people who weren't professing Christians and active in their congregations didn't get elected. As if the good ole days of witch-burnings and Puritan overbearing in public life is something to be CELEBRATED. (I won't point out what those early Christians would have thought of his religious tradition, which wouldn't be much. We've come a long way, congregationalists.)

And since it's Advent, it's also time for the annual "War on Christmas" ridiculousness that gets peddled about by some of my brothers and sisters in Christ, including this fellow. Permit me to point out that in the "good ole days" when only professing Christians got to hold public office, CHRISTMAS WAS OUTLAWED. One is tempted to say, "Dude, learn some history," but it seems indelicate. UnChristian, even. So I shall not say it.

His statement of intent to file also included his belief that there is a war against Christianity in this country, with "no prayer in schools," the Ten Commandments being removed from public buildings, and the supposed mocking of Christians. (Backbencher dryly noted that if there's a war on Christianity, it certainly isn't happening in this little corner of SW Iowa.)

Well, I happen to agree with my colleague that there's a war on Christianity, but the forces assailing us aren't the "secularists" (a vague term used by some that includes anyone from the ACLU to those who profess other faiths to, of course, atheists). The forces assailing Christianity are far closer than that. They are the forces within Christianity that convince us that prayer in schools and the public posting of Ten Commandments are the battles Christians should be fighting.

Jesus was pretty clear that at the final judgment, he's not going to ask if we insisted on praying in his name at public events, or if we made a many-tonned block with the Ten Commandments on it. He's going to separate us by those who fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, gave clothes to the naked, and visited those who were sick and in prison, and those who failed to see Jesus in their fellow brothers and sisters.

So long as we permit people to be hungry, homeless, naked and lonely, the war on Christianity continues. Perhaps this Advent season, we could work a little harder to fight those battles, and let store employees off the hook for wishing us "Happy Holidays."